After surviving the so called group of death without particular problems, the Netherlands face their next task against Russia in the quarter finals.
Coach Marco van Basten will have all options open on Saturday as all players are fit and willing to play. This includes Khalid Boulahrouz, who decided to stay with the squad despite the passing away of his born-to-soon daughter this week.
Van Basten explained at a Thursday press conference, that the focus still has to be on the match and that Boulahrouz “understands and wants that too”.
The Dutch will make sure not to underestimate the Russians: “We have to be very proud and happy that we have won the group and the three games,” said van Basten. “We have made a great start. But Saturday is another match altogether and we have to start again from zero.”
Whatever happens on Saturday, there’ll be at least one Dutchman celebrating as Russia’s coach Guus Hiddink will face his entire home nation.
Hiddink’s task with Russia at Euro 2008 has been successful already but not yet completed, if it’s up to the former Korea and Australia boss.
The Russians began their tournament with a heavy defeat by Spain but then went on to beat both Greece and Sweden to make it this far.
Especially against Sweden, the team seemed to have gained new strength and inspiration. This could very well be due to the return of Andrei Arshavin, who was suspended for the first two games.
Russia captain Sergei Semak thinks that a strong defense might be the key: “We need to be very careful in defence. The Dutch front line is stronger than ever. I think Ruud van Nistelrooy, Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder are having the tournament of their lives.”
In a friendly in February 2007, the Dutch beat Russia 4-1. Their last competitive meeting was at Euro 92, where Russia – then CIS – held their opponents to a goalless draw in the group phase.
Both sides will also think back of the Euro 88 final, where Van Basten scored the second of two goals against the Soviets to help the Dutch lifting the trophy. Truth be told though, that Soviet team was mostly dominated by Ukrainian players.
Slovakian Lubos Michel has been assigned as referee for this match, which is set to start at 20:45 CET at Basel’s St. Jakob-Park.
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